2018 Race Recap #23: Horseneck Half

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I really like running with these guys. Besides the fact they’re both much better runners than am I, they’re really good people.

Up until yesterday, we thought this race was going to be one rainy, wet mess. Then a hint of promise: Weather Underground forecast rain to stop right about race time and pick up again just after my anticipated finish time with some percent chance of rain during.  Come this morning, the forecast was clouds and fog, and about 60-degrees. Essentially perfect running weather.

Which was good, because I was going to need something close to perfect conditions: I’m pretty much fully recovered from my piriformis strain, but (damn, there’s always a ‘but’) since I’m an idiot and kept trying to push through, I developed a bit of a shin splint, which is painful and has pretty much kept me from running very much at any competitive pace – and yes, I know, I wrote about a 5k I recently ran and won my age group…but take a look at that pace: not exactly world beating – and not pairing up with my previous paces. My conditioning has suffered over the past several (6?) weeks, but I have been mindful to avoid blowing up like a tick weight wise like I did in December when I was last injured. I’ve been going to fitness bootcamp (although, I do have to admit to feeling kind of low and letting that keep me from going more) and being mindful of my calories. I’ve actually lost weight over the last 6 weeks or so, topping out at under 180 for the first time in quite some time. That mindfulness paid off today, to be sure.

Then there was the pre-race issues. I just couldn’t put myself together. The car wouldn’t start. I couldn’t get into the trunk to get the jumper cables because…the car was dead so the fob nor the button inside would release.  Because I took so much time messing around with that stuff, I didn’t get anything to eat. Just a potential disaster looming.  NOTHING was going my way.

The Horseneck course is pretty flat and under the conditions today presented I would normally have looked at it as an opportunity to crush my New Bedford Half time. My buddy Duke, about whom I’ve written previously,  on top of being a captain of industry also happens to be a certified personal trainer (who knew?) and he taped me up pretty good. That bought me more than a few pain-free/reduced miles – without which this would likely have been an ugly crying hot mess. My goal today was really to be competitive with my Clearwater Half time from January – my first distance race after December – but definitely under 2-hours. The layoffs were similar in scope and I wasn’t feeling optimistic.

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Look at these guys pretending they don’t know me.

About 2 miles in, I was questioning whether I’d be able to pull this off – whether it was a lack of proper stretching, or conditioning or what – I was letting doubt get to me. My internal dialogue was becoming poisonous to my race, so I had to shut it off and focus on other things: the scenery, the pace, distance to go, my music.

I could feel the tightness in my quads – damn conditioning – and knew I couldn’t stop so I had to keep running. It was about half way through that I was becoming quite ornery about it, and that was manifesting itself in fighting with the motorists trying to squeeze by runners along the ancient roads of Westport: by and large there was plenty of room for motorists to pull to the side of the road and/or stop to allow cars in the opposite direction to pass by, and yet these morons kept squeezing runners over and the like. One guy actually got into the race course, and started honking at a woman who was probably 100-feet ahead of me. I burned quite a bit of fuel trying to catch up to let this guy know exactly what I thought about that – he was literally so close to her that had she stopped he would have hit her. Sadly, however, the cluster broke up and he continued on his way: I was pleased that she either hadn’t heard him (doubtful) or she ignored him and kept running her race.  I was secretly hoping someone would try that nonsense with me.  My middle finger did get a bit of a workout – I’m not sure I’m proud of that, but sometimes keeping fueled means keeping fueled by anger.

Between mile 8 and 9 I was busy trying to figure out what I had to do to finish sub-2 hours; this is a sure sign that I was allowing that toxic self talk back into my head – giving myself an out: “…okay, so if I average a 10:00/min pace…” Allowing myself wiggle room for failing to perform. I had done well enough to that point that I had some cushioning to meet my goal, but it would be close, and this time that toxicity was outweighed by stubbornness.

As my watch clicked over to 12-miles, I knew I had enough time to beat 2-hours, but then the question was by how much, and would I get my Clearwater time? I kept pushing and actually had my best pace since that second mile. Those last few miles were difficult for me as well because of the headwind, so as we made the turn into the State Reservation, with a little less than a half mile to go it was a god send. Flat, generally wind free, just enough to push myself over the finish in a little less than 1:58:00.  Didn’t beat Clearwater, which was a bit of a personal defeat because I wasn’t happy with that time in January and after the voyage this year I am certainly disappointed, but it was a personal victory in keeping it under that 2:00 mark.

In my very first half – the Black Goose Half Marathon in October 2016 – I finished in 2:00:48 and I’ve been pissed at myself since that I couldn’t find 48-seconds somewhere over 13.1-miles.  From that low to my most recent half where I hit a personal best, I had really hoped when I registered that I’d come close to 1:50:00 or even better my New Bedford Half time.  It turns out I most closely approximated my Cambridge Half Time.  Disappointing, but not heart breaking.

I may have an opportunity to run a half in London next week  (or perhaps some shorter derivation), but unless that happens I’ll have another shot at an improved time next month – hopefully without the issues that plagued me today.  Onward and upward.

The course had a total gain of maybe 30′ (my watch says 358′ gain, 322′ loss…pretty significantly because it’s essentially a loop and I’m pretty sure there’s not 30′ of elevation between the finish and start). Remarkably I had a 176 spm cadence, so it would appear it was mostly in my head. My stride was shorter than usual, so I know I could have been faster, basically “remembering” what an 8:20 m/m pace feels like – I could feel myself moving easily between say 9:15/20 and 8:40, but I was letting my head too much control.  I’ll be working on that one.

Previous Results

Horseneck Half Marathon: 1:57:45
New Bedford Half Marathon: 1:48:57
Clearwater Half Marathon: 1:56:32
Cambridge Half Marathon: 1:57:38
Upton State Forest Half Marathon (Trail): 2:18:01.9
Worcester Half Marathon: 1:51:56
Black Goose Half Marathon: 2:00:48

 

 

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2018 Race Recap #18: Tri-State NJ Beast

Last summer, I had planned to do the Savage Race in Massachusetts, but has to bail due to injury.  I traded my deferral code for Savage to a guy for a Spartan code which became this race.

The Beast is the longest and most difficult of Spartan’s three standard race distances: Sprint, Super, and Beast. Once past Beast, you get into the Ultra or Ultra Beast which is generally speaking some variation of the Beast course, and several Hurricane Heats which are a variation of the race.  Touted at 13+ miles, 30+ obstacles.  My watch totaled 15 some odd miles and, honestly I didn’t count the obstacles.  This was my third Beast – my second time here at Vernon – and (I think) my tenth Spartan race and I’ve found over time that it’s a fool’s errand to focus too much on distance traveled or on obstacles completed.

What started out as a raw, overcast day turned into a bright, sunny 70-degree slice of perfection. Not too hot, not too cold.  The site is the Mountain Creek Resort,  a New York City metro area ski resort. Unrelated to the race itself, while out on the course, there are definitely signs the resort has its troubles. In all honesty, I wasn’t entire sure the complex was actually still operational and the Wikipedia entry kind of explains its current state.  Another proximate ski area, Tuxedo Ridge in Tuxedo, NY has also had its financial difficulties and has hosted its share of Spartan Races as well.  Its hard to know if the financial difficulties are related to the willingness to host an obstacle course race or if its mere coincidence.

This years Beast seemed less difficult overall.  The thing with Spartan is they’re not terribly innovative and they trot out generally the same obstacles year over year.  This race seemed much more of a trail race through the hiking trails of the resort and less the mountain slog that I’ve seen at Killington (oh dear God, the quads!!) and to a lesser degree here last year. There was some mountain climbing but it wasn’t the gratuitous “we’re making you climb this because we can” sort of climb.

I was running with a first time Beast participant and it was a challenging race for her, so I don’t want to discount the level of difficulty involved, its just that it seemed like an easier course over last year.  I’ll be taking another stab at it in a few hours so we’ll see how my experience Saturday affects my performance Sunday.

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My usual Beast race buddy and my first time runner.

I had been really nervous about how my butt injury would hold up, but it held up pretty well – no major discomfort at all, perhaps a few twings here and there but overall nothing that would hold me up.  I was able to hit several obstacles I didn’t think I would which was a bit of a minor victory – any time you can avoid burpees is a good time – and for the most part even the ones I failed limited the burpees with an additional course trail instead.  (Innovation!!!)

Spartan did a little something new with the Ultra Beast course this year, by adding a 3 mile addition to the first loop of the course. This really seemed to mess up a lot of the folks we encountered along the way and it would appear a good number of them missed the course cut off to continue.  More than a couple were complaining about the hellish trail in that 3-miles. I have no way of knowing, but perhaps that was some of the more difficult trail the Beast course was lacking.

The obstacles seemed to be more standard than they have been in the past: the buckets at the bucket carry were prefilled, the farmer’s log “logs” were concrete atlas stones with handles built into them instead of actual, you know, logs. The sandbag carry was far more difficult than I remember it being in the past – large wreck bags instead of the sand filled pancakes that had been the obstacle – and the Herc Hoist seemed far more heavy than I remember it being, although several days of rain previous to race day may have helped both of those items become more heavy than anticipated.

I clocked 15.1 miles and just over 5000′ of elevation gain.

Overall, not my best time ever – I ran the Men’s elite heat (well, kinda – since my friend isn’t a male, she couldn’t run in the men’s elite heat so I delayed my start) and finished last in my age group and something like 3 slots off last for the heat.  Overall though, according to Athlinks, I finished solidly in the middle as I usually do.  I finished about 7 minutes slower than last year – we’ll see how I do Day 2 after having experienced the course.

Spartan Beast

Tri-State NJ 2018 6:09:12
Tri-State NJ 2017 6:02:24
Vermont Beast 2016 8:37:50

2018 Race Recap #13: New Bedford Half Marathon

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The net time is the important number here for placement and is a good thing because it took quite a bit to get through the folks who despite the clearly marked signs for 8:00 m/m pace decided that they should start closer.

Registering for this one was a bit of a lark. I’d just finished the Celtic 5k earlier in the day and was feeling pretty good about myself.  So I started noodling around with upcoming Half Marathons (because that’s a thing most people do, right?) and found this one.  It’s not terribly close to me but it did fit the parameters of my customary rule (don’t take longer to drive to a race than it will take you to run the race) and the extended forecast seemed like it would be a good running day.  I was hung up on the late entry fee and was desperately seeking a discount code.

If I joined USATF, I could get a $25 discount code – membership is $30, so it would’ve been a net increase of $5 which I was considering – but then I happened upon a 501(c)3 charity partnered up with the race organizers: Donate $60 to the organization and get a comped race entry.  Perfect.  Made even more perfect is that the Arredondo Family Foundation does some really good work.

Their mission is to empower military families in the prevention of military related suicides and to provide support through education, financial relief and support services.

So, on Sunday night with about 30-minutes left in the online registration window, I pressed “submit” on my race entry.  I was in.  Now, what was I in for?

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Gun time: 1:49:19. Net time: 1:48:57. 154/290 Old guys and 810/2025 overall.

Well, according to at least one online write up, it is a good course: scenic and flat-ish, but with a couple of “significant” hills…the second at mile 12! Oh c’mon.  Known for it’s blustery conditions, they said it can be challenging. Oh great.  I then click on over the the course map (who cares, I don’t know what I’m really looking at) at the bottom of which was an elevation map.  THAT’s what I was looking for. Kind of a mixed bag for me. Most of the gains are at the start of the race, then about 9 miles of descent or flat streets. I figured if I could just lump my lard-butt past the first three miles or so, I’d be golden.

Which is pretty much how it played out.  The weather was just shy of perfect – a bit of a wind, but not often pushing against me, mostly blowing me sideways.  The sun was out, it was on the cool side (low 30’s) but overall pretty nice.

Hey, howya doin? Photo Credit: Kim Gordon

A good group of people from my running club showed up and it was nice seeing them along the course. One guy who’d just returned from a European jaunt of what seemed like a couple of months (I mean like back on Friday…jet lag must’ve really been doing a number on him), passed me a couple of times.  The first time he informed me that he stopped at a porta potty but couldn’t get anything going, so he wasted that time.  About 45-minutes later he ran by me, telling me that he stopped and pooped in someone’s house.  Not the usual conversation, but I’ve learned that runners are generally pretty open about such things.  What blows my mind about this is that he continued on and finished a couple of minutes ahead of me.  He’s a really good runner and was already convinced he’d have a “crap time” (his words, not mine, although it does ring a little true after telling this vignette, doesn’t it?) Funny, his crap time is my personal record, but hey. Everyone runs their own race.

By the 10k split, I was thinking I had a really good chance to PR  – that split was my fastest 10k time.by quite a bit: 50:31.  I bested my 10-Mile time by about a minute as well, and by that point my internal dialogue was pretty much talking about keeping moving, keeping a steady pace.  Mile 12 was pretty much what I thought it would be. That ascent grabbed about a minute off my pace, I slowed down quite a bit, but got through it.  I’m quite sure the cold weather helped me out there: at Clearwater back in January, a similar situation at mile 12 really bonked me out. I was much less well prepared for that race than this, but doubt creeps in: that’s why controlling that internal dialogue is so important.

With maybe 0.2 mile give or take, one of my friends from the running club was on the corner taking pictures and saw me.  She got all wide-eyed and yelled at me that I still had a really good chance to get 1:50:00.  So I pushed just a little harder, and around the corner was a slight downward hill, so I sprinted as hard as I could that last it of distance to the finish. I’m not really sure exactly where I found the juice, but I did.

My gun time was 1:49:19, but my chip/net time was 1:48:57 – either way I beat that 1:50 time with just a little urging on from someone in the right place at the right time.  A little further away from the finish and I may not have pulled it off, a little closer and it wouldn’t have mattered.  Serendipity and luck combined with appropriate training and a few friends never hurt anyone.

Previous Results

New Bedford Half Marathon: 1:48:57
Clearwater Half Marathon: 1:56:32
Cambridge Half Marathon: 1:57:38
Upton State Forest Half Marathon (Trail): 2:18:01.9
Worcester Half Marathon: 1:51:56
Black Goose Half Marathon: 2:00:48

 

2018 Race Recap #3: Clearwater Half

Image may contain: 1 person, outdoorI wasn’t sure how well this race was going to go. I hadn’t run more than 7 miles at one time since December 7 and the last time I ran longer than 10 miles was the Cambridge Half Marathon in November.  Being laid up in an immobilization boot for the better part of December, I went from December 7 to December 31 without running.

Since then, I’ve run every day in 2018 except two – January 4, the day of a blizzard that shut down just about everything, including the gym, and yesterday when I just couldn’t get my stuff together to run the weekly 5k before I headed to the airport.

So, it’s race day.  The thing that saved the day from ignominy is the fact that Florida is as flat as a pancake.  The only elevation gain was from the two bridges and the out and back course.  344′ of gain.  It saved the day, and cursed the day, but more on that later. The race started at 7:05 and about 58-degrees.

I wasn’t sure what to make of the race. My night sleep was sketchy, but my nutrition was on point.  Up and out to packet pick up by 5:30 AM, with a cup of coffee and an ill fated trip to the porta potty set the stage.

About 0.5 mile into the race was the Clearwater Memorial Causeway Bridge.  I wasn’t sure I was going to accomplish this in the time I wanted, yet the next song to come up on my playlist was “Barometer Soup” by Jimmy Buffett.  Feeling the Margaritaville vibe with the view of Clearwater was magnificent.

I wasn’t sure what the race held, but I was happy I was there.

The coffee helped get my metabolism going, but unfortunately caused some other issues for me, which wasn’t immediately a problem but about 4 miles in they began.

Just before the second bridge, there was a breakfast place that had obviously just fired up their offerings with the net result was all I could smell was bacon…for like a mile. THAT would’ve been AWESOME if I weren’t battling the GI ninja.

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, sunglasses and textIts also the day of the AFC Championship Game – Patriots vs. Jaguars.  So, ever the master of race couture, I wore a TB12 jersey…the whole race. Not one hater on the course, some fist bumps, high fives, hoots.  It was fun and served the purpose I set out to achieve wearing it.

I was fully on pace for a personal record right up to Mile 12, right where the last bridge started inclining and I just couldn’t push any further.  For that half mile, I pretty much walk-ran the bridge.  The second half was down hill, including a ramp down into the park.  I’m pretty sure that mile split was 13:00 m/m for the first half, and 7:00 for the second.

Ultimately, I finished with a 1:56:32 time.  Not my worst by a long shot, and about 3.5 minutes shy of my best.  Much like Cambridge was in November, this was an opportunity to PR – an opportunity lost.  BUT, it was a personal victory; I’d not had a long run in months, I haven’t been running well at all.

A sub-2 hour half marathon is, in my book, a good race.  It didn’t feel like a good ending, but over all it felt like a good race.  I wound up with an 8:56 pace, with the last three miles taking their toll on my pace.  Lessons to build on.

Addendum:

I was disappointed and not a little salty that the Half Marathon finisher medals weren’t available at the finish line, but the communication around that really was top notch.  It was a regrettable situation, and the RD clearly regretted it.  We got a note at the finish, an email to follow up and I received this by week’s end.

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It’s a really slick medal, and truly the reason it wasn’t available (beyond the shipping issues) was that they had a custom medal for each distance; whatever happened behind the scenes, the public face of it was handled well and appreciated.  Not every race does that (I have two “Half Marathon-5k” medals and one “Marathon & Half Marathon”)   So while it was a drag at the time, it’s pretty sweet swag overall.

Results

Clearwater Half Marathon: 1:56:32
Cambridge Half Marathon: 1:57:38
Upton State Forest Half Marathon (Trail): 2:18:01.9
Worcester Half Marathon: 1:51:56
Black Goose Half Marathon: 2:00:48